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Schultz’s ‘independent’ run for president ignores the independents in today’s Democratic Party

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If you’re following the presidential ambitions of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, you’ve no doubt heard the word “independent” again and again. I’m reminded of a quote from “The Princess Bride,” where Inigo Montoya turns to Vizzini and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Consider Mr. Schultz’s reasoning for why he can’t run as a Democrat. “So many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left,” he said, adding “if I ran as a Democrat… I would have to be disingenuous.”

{mosads}Here’s the first problem: Schultz’s independent run ignores a set of values that is very much alive and thriving within today’s Democratic Party. As chairman of the New Democrat Coalition – a group of independent-minded House members – I can attest to this first-hand.

Our coalition is committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies. We seek to bridge the gap between left and right by challenging outmoded, partisan approaches to governing. That means we sometimes clash with fellow Democrats over the best pathway to universal health coverage or the most prudent approach to the existential threat of climate change.

We’re also proud Democrats. We aren’t afraid to fiercely defend the values of justice, equality, opportunity, and empathy that we all share as Democrats.

It’s an approach that runs through the ideological center of our caucus and reflects the values of a wide diversity of Americans.

Last year, that message swayed Republican-leaning voters who responded to the thoughtful, “independent” leaders we put forward. These candidates ran as Democrats, but also on a promise to put country over party or political gain. And they won.

With those gains, the New Democrat Coalition is now 101 members strong – representing our party’s largest ideological caucus. 

It’s an ideology that says we can have a healthy environment while still making room for business to thrive; that good wages and a bright future for workers can fit hand-in-hand with strong markets and an attractive balance sheet; that rising equities should coincide with an economic landscape where everyone in America has the opportunity to earn a good life, not just those at the top, and that we should accomplish this while keeping debt and deficits in check. 

It’s an ideology that says a willingness to reach across the aisle is a prescription for good-governance, not a failure of partisan purity.

This type of thinking spurred what we call our Economic Opportunity Agenda: A Future that Works. It’s a first of its kind policy proposal for the changing economy that says we can no longer rely on outdated systems and institutions to prepare and protect our workers.

Our coalition doesn’t always light social media on fire or get the headlines, but we are invested in battling for the priorities and values that have been put at risk during the Trump presidency.

While we have a plan to strengthen American health care, the Trump administration has overseen intentional sabotage of Americans’ access to affordable health care. While New Democrats have articulated thoughtful responses to threats ranging from nuclear proliferation to cyber attacks, Donald Trump has eroded our alliances and built foreign policy with as little consideration as it takes to write 280 characters in a tweet.

So here’s the second problem: Schultz’s campaign will merely siphon away the critical voters Democrats just won over. We can’t afford that.

The 2020 election will decide whether America can restore the norms and traditions that made us the strongest, longest-lasting Democracy in the history of the world… or not. As we look towards 2020, all Democrats will be tasked with putting America back on track towards fairness, decency and long-term economic success.

Anyone with the vision to lead this country could see there’s nothing “independent” about putting that effort in jeopardy.

Enabling four more years of Trump policies would be damaging for America, and a Howard Schultz candidacy will make it easier for Trump to be re-elected. The mere premise of that, in the words of Vizzini, is “inconceivable.”

Kilmer is chair of the New Democrat Coalition.

Tags Donald Trump Independent

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